OPERATION AND SIGHTING IN OF YOUR MUZZLE LOADER
Sighting in? I heard about it, but it wouldn't hurt to hear it again.
Following the manufacturers recommended starting load, you want to find out where your shot is going down range. Remember "ALWAYS KEEP YOUR MUZZLE POINTED IN A SAFE DIRECTION, AND KNOW YOUR TARGET AND WHAT'S BEYOND."
You're at your range and you want to first set a target up to find out where you are shooting. It is best to set a target about 25 yards down range for this sighting in. Make sure that the range is safe to go down and set up a target (everyone on the firing line should not be handling a firearm). Also make sure that there is a good backstop down range, your shot can travel several hundred yards. A MUZZLE LOADER IS A RIFLE.
You've just taken the muzzle loader out of its case. Take the ramrod from under the barrel, insert the narrow fitting first down the barrel, and let drop. You should hear a metallic "clink". This tells you that the barrel is not loaded or other obstructions exist. Next, take a dry cleaning patch, put it on the flared and of your ramrod and "swab" the barrel to remove any excess oil. Now take a cap, and place it on the nipple and snap a cap with the muzzle facing DOWN near a blade of grass. If you see the blade of grass move, this means that the nipple is clear, and any oil in the nipple, should have burned out. Inspect the hammer and nipple to be sure that the fired cap has been removed. The firing a second cap is not a bad idea to be sure of a clear and clean nipple. Keep the hammer on half cock position. This is the muzzle loaders safety in most cases, except for in line rifles. Remember "A SAFETY IS A MECHANICAL DEVICE AND IS SUBJECT TO FAILURE."
Depending on the caliber, (FFG 45 to 68 caliber -- FFFG for 32 to 40 caliber. "F" means the grain size of the powder) using a POWDER MEASURE (one of those needed items) measure 50 or 60 gr. of "FFG" powder, or what your book recommends, and dump this charge down the barrel. (I will be referring to 45 and above caliber in the procedures.) Take a lubed patch and center it over the muzzle, take a round ball and place it in the center of the patch pressing it in a bit to ensure that the patch is equally exposed all-around.
The reason for the lubed patch is to seal the gases around the ball to give it to spin on the rifling for an accurate shot.
With the ball starter (another one of those must have items) short end, press the ball and patch into the muzzle. Now with the long end of the ball starter, ram the patch and ball further down the barrel. The ball should feel snug going down but not to the point of deforming the ball. If this happens, use a smaller ball or thinner patch. The reverse applies if the patch and ball just slide down. Using the range rod (and additional fiber or metal rod used for loading and cleaning. Not a must, but highly recommended.) Push the patch and ball down the barrel the rest of the way ensuring that the ball is resting a top of the powder. Use short even strokes pushing the ball down when using the wood rod provided with the gun. NEVER push from the top of the rod, it may break causing severe injury to you. I recommend that your wood rod be used only when hunting and a second shot is needed. Also note the height of the rod after you have seated the ball all the way. Put a small notch on the rod at the muzzle, and you'll know when the ball is seated with that charge of powder. After you have developed the charge that works best in your rifle, make a permanent notch in your rod for consistent loading.
Before placing a cap on the nipple, hold the gun down range and place the hammer on full cock position and see if you can lower the hammer down to the firing position and back to half cock. The reason for this is that most muzzle loaders need to have the hammer placed on full cock to be able to put a cap on the nipple even with an in line capper on some models. (In line cappers hold a number of caps to make placing the cap on the nipple easier.) Also, some states consider a muzzle loader loaded only when a cap is placed on the nipple. Consult your state's firearms or game laws.
Being familiar with your trigger, now place the cap on the nipple, place the hammer to the "SAFE" position (half cock) shoulder you're firearm, take aim, keeping your finger OUT of the trigger guard. When you are sure of your target, take a safety off (put the hammer on full cock) and squeeze the trigger.
Crack! Bang! Boom! Let the big puff of smoke clear and see where your shot went. Use a spotting scope if you have one, or binoculars. Hopefully you're on the paper.
Don't touch those sights yet. Reload exactly as you did before, aim at the exact same spot as before, and don't anticipate the shot. Note that when you load your second shot, the pushing of the patch round ball will be a bit stiffer, but not to the point of having to "hammer" the ball down. Reload one more time and see if you're getting a group (the closest of one shot to the next). If you are satisfied with your "group", now you can adjust your sites and shoot three more rounds and adjust the sites if necessary.
If you are not getting a "group" of four inches or less, increase your powder charge 5 gr. and try again. Keep increasing the gr. use until a desirable "group" is achieved. Do not exceed the manufacturers recommend safe charge under any circumstances. There's a problem elsewhere. The only other factors you can change are the size of the ball or the patch as mentioned earlier.
If you have shot the "groups" that are satisfactory to you, you can now increase the distance of your target. Try 50 yards with the same three shot group as mentioned before, and then up to 100 yards if that's the type of distance you will be shooting at.
Depending on what type of activity you'll be using your muzzle loader for, practice the distances you can shoot successfully. If you are a deer hunter, please note that a muzzle loader can shoot great distances, but for large game such as a deer, 125 yards as the longest distance shot you should attempt. The energy available to take down a deer beyond this distance is diminished greatly. An example of this is a person can practice shooting sling shot at 100 yards, but to do an effective job with it for deer is not quite practical so practice the distance a normal shot would be taking in your geographical to be ethical to be game you are pursuing.
Consistency and practice are the only way you can master the enjoyments and challenge of the muzzle loader.
I read the book, tried your suggestions and I am still having problems.
So-called problems can arise at any stage of the shooting procedures. In most cases, it's just a matter of not understanding all the procedures or even missing one. Reexamine step-by-step procedures and try again. Never exceed or disregard the manufacturers recommendations. This brochure is to be used in conjunction with your instruction book to help you understand and get started enjoying the muzzle loading sports.
In the use of black powder, extreme care should always be used. Always keep your powder dry, away from extreme heat, spark, or open flames. Don't smoke around any type of powder. Keep your powder in its original container, and stored in a cool, dry, safe place. For those of you who like using ammo cans, don't latch the lid, or keep in a Styrofoam container. Black powder is susceptible static electricity also. Follow all warning labels on the container.
Black powder does have an alternative product, and that is PYRODEX. It's more stable than black powder and is not considered by the ATF as an explosive. Still check with your local state regulations on its classification.
Old Swamp Hunter Co. is dedicated to the promotion of safe and responsible use in the shooting sports. Our products have been tested in most makes and models and calibers of muzzle loaders, and can assure our customers that with the use of our premium products, the loading, shooting, and care of their muzzle loader will become less of a burden than with the use of conventional products.